Two winners were crowned Mr. and Miss India with Down Syndrome as part of a historic pageant that took place last month.
According to the Indian Express, the event took place in Raipur from Sept. 15-17 and featured 15 finalists from a selected shortlist of 40 within India.
Unnathi Surana, 16, and Sharan Delhivala, 21, reportedly won the top spots while 8-year-old Khushi Shah won the titles of Miss Confident Smile and Miss Talent. The contestants underwent one-on-one sessions with special educators before competing.
The Express noted that the event was scheduled to include a ramp walk, a talent show, and speeches by contestants.
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“Those with Down syndrome are intelligent individuals who can achieve anything which they put their minds to,” said Tejal Shah, who served as convenor of the pageant. “This pageant will boost their confidence, which gives a sense of security and is the key to their growth going ahead.”
Shah’s organization, Happiness of Khushi, and the Down Syndrome Federation of India put on the event, which was reportedly the first Down syndrome pageant for Indians.
“Through this platform, we are trying to change the mindset of those who think people with Down Syndrome are suffering, which is not true,” Dr. Rekha Ramachandran, who serves as president of the Down Syndrome Federation of India reportedly said.
“We want the world to see and understand that these individuals are not only capable of dance, drama, or music, but they are much beyond that and can perform in beauty pageants too and we are proud of them.”
The event served as a reminder and celebration of the inherent dignity of individuals with Down syndrome. Across the world, they have encountered a unique and discriminatory threat of abortion.
Last week, the Supreme Court of India ruled that single women should be able to abort their children at 24 weeks as married women are also allowed. The Supreme Court previously denied a woman’s request to abort her 26-week preborn child with Down syndrome.
At the time, the country allowed abortion up until 20 weeks, which has been used in U.S. laws as a benchmark for fetal pain. Research has indicated, however, that preborn children experience pain much earlier and have developed significantly by that point in gestation.
In 2021, the country amended its abortion law to allow various categories of women (divorced women, those with mental illnesses, etc…) to obtain the procedure at 24 weeks.